Near the end of 2016, God very suddenly and unexpectedly moved my dear fellow worker and housemate on to a new assignment. To this girl who thrives on communication and processes life best by talking about it, living alone overseas came as a very unwelcome gift. In fact, I didn’t think I could handle it. But the Lord gave me a promise in the words of a song which I sang dozens of times a day over the time that my housemate was leaving: “God will make a way where there seems to be no way.”
He has kept His promise. Not as I thought He would, by miraculously providing someone ready to take her place on short notice, or some such thing; but day-by-day, moment-by-moment, giving the grace that makes it possible to go on.
One of the ways He has done that was through a Velvet Ashes Connection Group in the spring. It was my first time to join a Connection Group, and I wondered what it would be like. I had heard many good things about Connection Groups, and I was excited to be part of one. But at the same time, I had doubts about whether my experience would be as good as that of others. Especially since, because of an unreliable, low-quality internet, the emailing group was my only option. Would we really connect well and understand and encourage each other through a few weeks of emailing?
I’m so glad I didn’t give in to my doubts, because, as I discovered, the answer to that question was a resounding Yes.
Among the greatest needs I was feeling when my Connection Group started was the need to be connected. Thanks to being overseas, living alone, doing a lot of my communication in my second language, and nearly all the people I rubbed shoulders with having a culture, religion, and worldview vastly different from my own, I felt like I was travelling through a desert, relationship-wise, and I longed for fellowship.
I found myself in a group with five other women. Every one of us lived in a different country, on four different continents, and we didn’t even all hail from the same passport country. I was the only single woman in the group. Our lives, past and present, each looked very different.
But we had one thing in common: we all loved the Lord. And as we shared our hearts and lives, we found a lot of other common ground—shared likes, similar experiences, etc. Amid the different personalities, backgrounds, and perspectives that added richness and dimension to our group, there were lots of “Me, too!” moments. It didn’t matter nearly as much that we were different as it did that we were actually so much the same.
I was blessed to be part of a group of women who were willing to be vulnerable, share hearts, “listen,” and care for each other. Whether it was telling a funny little story or a praise from the day, swapping interesting facts about our host countries and cultures, sharing ugly heart struggles and beautiful lessons the Lord had taught us, discussing the weekly theme, or praying for each other, my Connection Group lived up to its name—we connected.
I finished our weeks of emailing refreshed by a good strong dose of connection and fellowship. It was like I had camped out for a little while in an oasis in the midst of the desert. I was awed by the experience of how God’s daughters all over the world can so easily connect and go in very little time from strangers to friends. The connection didn’t end when the Connection Group did, either; I’ve continued to stay in touch with a couple of the women from the group.
If there’s anyone out there who is like I was, aching for fellowship, thinking about Connection Groups, but somewhat skeptical, I encourage you to consider it prayerfully. It just might revitalize you way more than you expect. It just might be God’s gift to you at this time to strengthen you to persevere in His calling for you. In this overseas life that often includes so much of loneliness and disconnectedness, here’s a golden opportunity for fellowship and connection!
Have you been strengthened by a Velvet Ashes Connection Group? What blessed you about it? Any thoughts about how we can be an encouragement to one another in the upcoming Connection Groups?
Connection Groups registration is open! You can see groups, facilitators, and times here.